DOT and Troopers remind Alaskans that Denali Highway is not open

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) Alaska State Troopers are noticing more motorists attempting to travel the Denali Highway and remind Alaskans that the Denali Highway remains closed until May 15.

A sign at the start of the Denali Highway warning people that travel is not advised. (Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

“Starting in mid-April every year, our maintenance crews start plowing and opening up the Denali Highway. They start both from the Richardson Highway end and the Parks Highway end. Both crews work either side and meet somewhere in the middle,” said Caitlin Frye, information officer with Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Northern Region Headquarters.

Frye says when they start plowing, it might look like the road is open and it is easy to drive, but it is not yet.

“The trouble is when we first start opening it; our plows don’t open it up all the way to begin with. First, they just push all the snow off, it is a fairly narrow corridor, there could be a lot of road damage there. They don’t plow the pullouts right away so there’s kind of nowhere to pull off the road. They also don’t provide regular maintenance so that means that if it were to ice up or there were to be flooding or a snow fall, our crews would not be there to address it right away. So even though it looks like the snow is out of the way, it’s really not open and safe for regular travel until we make that announcement usually by May 15,” said Frye.

She says that every year people try to travel on the Denali Highway before its ready. “It can cause problems for people, it’s easy to get stuck, and conditions are not good on that road. Even if you don’t get stuck, it can still cause problems for our maintenance staff. The roads is really narrow so if your vehicle is there, our maintenance crews won’t be able to turn around and access the points that they need to,” said Frye.

Frye says the Denali Highway usually opens by May 15. “That’s sort of if everything goes okay. Crews have made some pretty good progress, especially from the Parks Highway end, they’re about 100 miles in. From the Richardson Highway end, they are about 5 miles in. But they have a whole bunch of work to do even after they punch the snow out. So that’s going to include thawing culverts, repairing the road in areas that were damaged and some other things that are really important for them to do before people star traveling on it,” said Frye.

Troopers remind drivers that if they travel the Denali Highway before it is officially open, it is at their own risk and they need to be prepared to take care of themselves for an extended amount of time.

“If you break down on the Denali Highway, as the road is not open, it is unlikely another motorist will quickly come across you to render assistance,” according to AST dispatch.

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